Monday, March 26, 2012

Exclusive: Unused 'John Carter' Concept Art Shows Very Different Martians and Woola

Monday, March 26, 2012 - by Maurice Mitchell 4

The film John Carter (2012) has some amazing visuals, but what would have happened if veteran artist Wayne Barlowe's designs had been used? Wayne Barlowe is one of the masters in the field having worked on Avatar and Harry Potter. Intricate, detailed and lavish Barlowe has a distinct look for the Martians.
I contacted Wayne Barlowe about his unused work on the film and his responses are below along with his concept art.
I was brought in during the pre-production phase in 2008. As usual, I was called upon to specifically focus on creatures - the Green Martians, Woola and Thoats in particular. I was on the show for only three weeks, I think. And, as you know, none of my designs were actually used.  

Concept design for John Carter, Green Martian Head Study (2008), unused.

I was preoccupied with coming up with a new and original vision of the Green Martians that adhered to ERB's (Edgar Rice Burrough's) words but strongly departed from the Frazetta, et al mold. I love Frazetta's work - it was inspiring to me as a teenager - but I felt that because it had already been seen an original approach was called for. So, I strived for something more realistic and severe. Their visible demeanor was meant to reflect their environment and their hardships on a dying world.
Concept Study for John Carter, Green Martian, (2008), unused.


I did some research in Tuaregs and other North African tribes and riffed on them. I wanted to impart a sense of old culture by layering a ton of exotic detail into their [accoutrements]. I loved the fact that Green Martians used long rifles - it fit perfectly with the Arab model and I wouldn't be at all surprised if ERB had that in mind when he wrote it. That kind of ornate weapon was making the rounds in Victorian and Edwardian homes. So, I used that and many bits and pieces of jewelry and costuming from African and Indonesian cultures as inspiration.

I try to approach every film job as a separate entity. It wouldn't serve anyone if a cross-influence was noticeable from one film to another. Nor would it be true to the various scripts.


 

It has been a policy of mine since I worked in publishing as a cover artist to ALWAYS dote on the words written by writers. I always insisted upon reading everything they wrote, took copious notes and made sure that, as best as I could, I hit all their marks. After that I would layer in my own aesthetics and ideas. So, the same was true here. Especially here, [because] I loved the material dearly. These were the first SF/Fantasy books I read. My dad gave them to me so the property has special meaning for me. I was on a mission to get it right.
Concept study for John Carter, Woola & a Thoat (2008), unused.

Thanks to Wayne Barlowe for the images and the answers. You can see more of his portfolio at waynebarlowe.com.

About the Author

Maurice Mitchell
Lover of science fiction and art.

4 comments:

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